Being one of the younger members of the TweakTown staff (in my early 20's), I missed the majority of the mid 1980's Transformers craze, catching only the tail end of the mass popularity during my formulative (read: cartoon watching/ toy playing) years. However, the nostalgic qualities of the franchise are so strong as to support on going animated shows, toys, video games and now this, the live action offering. The fact that the movie is as well made and entertaining as it is, has surprised many (myself included), when one looks at the history of the franchise which has its creation in a bunch of plastic play things.
Young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) happens upon a transforming mechanical being named Bumblebee when choosing his first car. Far from a chance meeting, the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime have arrived on Earth as refugees from the planet Cybertron to stop the imminent destruction of our planet, the same fate as was met by theirs. However, the Decepticons, led by the evil Megatron (Hugo Weaving) will stop at nothing to take over the world, with the All Spark; a weapon of immense power which can convert inanimate machines into unstoppable warriors.
Yes, the plot is convoluted, yet at its core is a fun, old fashioned tale of good vs. evil, with more than enough wit and rousing moments further helped along by brilliant visual effects and a charming performance from the cast (particularly La Beouf) to skim over the cracks. The fact that the movie made so much money means that a sequel has been fast tracked. In fact, it's been shooting for some months now and is set for release mid next year.
As a side note; this movies' release onto Blu-ray has been a pretty rocky one. At the time of the cinema release in 2007, Paramount were releasing movies on both Blu-ray and the now deceased HD-DVD format. However, buoyed by the immense success of the theatrical release, the HD-DVD group, led by Toshiba, spearheaded a successful attack on Blu-ray by signing Paramount Pictures (and all subsidiaries) to exclusive release agreements preventing movies from being released on the rival format. The alleged $150 million contract stood until earlier this year when the HD-DVD format collapsed in stunning fashion, paving the way for this much anticipated release.
Transformers is presented in the widescreen scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded in MPEG-4 AVC.
Last year I had the pleasure of seeing Transformers no less than eight times, in three different cinemas; one of them being IMAX. The fact that Transformers on Blu-ray looks better than seven of those presentations, is no mean feat at all. If anyone has seen any Michael Bay film, there will be no surprise to the visual look of the film; big bold brassy colours with pumped contrast and a fine layer of artistic film grain. Well, all of this is represented perfectly on the Blu-ray.
Rather than re-purpose the HD-DVD encode, Paramount have gone back to the original source and re-encoded the film to take advantage of Blu-rays larger data rate. So it's no real surprise that that the film is completely devoid of any transfer-induced problems such as compression artifacts. Apparently this new encode was approved by Bay himself, a vocal proponent of Blu-ray, and as such there has been no attempt to lessen the films grain quotient by applying noise reduction.
When all is said and done, I have no qualms about recommending Transformers as 'grade A' demo material.
The main audio track here is an English Dolby TrueHD, encoded at 24 bits.
I will get it out of the way now: Transformers audio is entirely demo worthy. Again, what is on offer here (with the appropriate audio equipment of course) is better than seven of the eight cinema experiences, and just shy of the sonic perfection of the IMAX experience.
From the first few minutes of Transfomers, the subwoofer kicks into life and the surrounds bustle with activity and they don't let up until the end of the film. The film will demand every ounce of power that your speaker system can provide and you may even need to turn it down slightly (or enjoy the terror). A few scenes towards the end of the film will test the low (sub 20Hz) frequency that your sub can provide, providing a great test to see what your sub does under these circumstances.
I was particularly impressed by the score by composer Steve Jablonsky. It's a great score, with some very memorable cues, so much so that I bought the now out of print soundtrack. It really comes to life when presented in uncompressed form and the sound effects do settle down at times to show it off.
Transformers audio really is that good. However, be prepared for the inevitable upgrade bug that will probably be unleashed with whatever audio hardware you own.
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